Climate change prizes have recognized the innovation of a group of Quebec researchers—with the support of Jewish National Fund

Jeff Hart, left, congratulates Quebec prize winners Philip Raphals, Charles Kiyanda, Soodeh Abedini, Samson Bowen-Bronet and Yee Wei Foong, along with Galith Levy and Patrick Gagné. (Credit: Jason Trott)

Five projects based in Quebec were awarded a total of $300,000 in the inaugural edition of JNF’s Climate Solutions Prizes, described as the largest incentive program of its kind in the province for non-profits and start-ups. The goal is to spur new ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency, and developing carbon capture capability.

The announcement of the winning projects on May 25 was the culmination of the first Climate Solutions Festival, held in Montreal and attended by more than 800 researchers, entrepreneurs and investors from Canada and abroad.

The winning projects were selected by an independent panel which judged them to be “ideas with demonstrable potential for real-world impact… and which can be developed and put to use quickly.”

More than 200 submissions were received, which were narrowed down to 25 finalists.

The $100,000 Breakthrough Research Prize was open to institutions such as universities, hospitals, research and development centres, environmental charities, and non-profit incubators.

Projects in this category were scored on criteria including impact, innovation, development potential, and cost-effectiveness. The judges decided to split the prize with the larger share—$60,000—being awarded to Philip Raphals and Charles Kiyanda of NovoPower International.

The pair proposed a cost-effective and sustainable method for generating power from waste heat that involves incorporating data centres and green hydrogen electrolyzers.

The runner-up $40,000 prize went to Soodeh Abedini of Concordia University for an affordable electrochemical system for simultaneous conversion of carbon dioxide and methane to green storable energy.

The winner of the $100,000 Start-Up Prize was chosen from among 10 finalists who proposed ways of employing clean technology to tackle existing or emerging climate change.

Jennifer Côté of Opalia convinced the judges that real milk can be made in a lab using only mammary cells from a cow. The new company claims the product has the same taste and nutrition as milk obtained conventionally.

The advantage is both environmental and ethical, Côté said, because the bovine’s methane emissions are eliminated and animal use is reduced.

The $90,000 Student Entrepreneur Innovation Prize, awarded in partnership with Mitacs, a national research organization headquartered in Vancouver, will be paid out over two years to support the work of winner Yee Wei Foong, a McGill University student.

He is developing a process that decreases the carbon content of batteries with metal-free electrodes as an environmentally-friendly alternative to lithium batteries.

A $10,000 Audience Choice Award winner, selected by festival participants from the pitches made by finalists for the Start-Up prize, went to Samson Bowen-Bronet of Altiro Energy. They were impressed by his project for large-scale energy storage that uses an iron-based clean fuel.

“The success of this year’s festival—a first in Quebec and Canada—demonstrates the broad engagement that exists to address the climate crisis within the entrepreneurial, research, and start-up communities,” said Galith Levy, chief Climate Solutions Prize officer.

The Quebec awards are an adjunct of the Climate Solution Prizes bestowed in Israel in their inaugural edition in 2022, which totaled over $2 million to researchers proposing novel approaches to alleviating the climate crisis.

“More than just a prize, the organization aims to provide a platform where key players in the ecosystem are brought together to propel innovations with high impact potential,” stated Climate Solutions Prize executive chair Montreal businessman Jeff Hart, who conceived this JNF initiative.